World Vision: Anti-Gay Bill Could Undermine HIV/AIDS Work

World Vision Uganda's national director released a statement expressing concern that the country's Anti-Homosexuality Bill may deter their work against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The proposed legislation, said Rudo Kwaramba, "has the potential to stigmatize some individuals in communities targeted by World Vision's work" and prevent individuals from being tested.

And knowledge of one's HIV status is what enables an individual to take actions to prevent further transmission of HIV, he added.

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Other Christian leaders have articulated the same concern since the bill was proposed last year by Ugandan legislator David Bahati.

While homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, the new bill hands down severe penalties, including the death penalty, against certain homosexual acts and also penalizes those who fail to report a known homosexual.

Southern California pastor Rick Warren denounced the measure and said passing it would have "a chilling effect" on the HIV/AIDS ministry of churches in Uganda.

With the proposed legislation threatening to penalize those who provide counseling to someone struggling with their sexuality and work with people infected with HIV/AIDS and who do not report the homosexual within 24 hours of knowledge, fewer people who are HIV positive will seek care from the churches out of fear of being reported, noted Warren, who is heavily involved in HIV/AIDS work – including prevention and removing the stigma attached to the pandemic – around the world.

AIDS has affected Uganda's population for nearly three decades. Though progress has been made in reducing HIV infection, tens of thousands of children have been orphaned. One of every four Ugandan families cares for a child orphaned by AIDS, according to World Vision.

The Christian humanitarian organization has more than 500 staff members in Uganda, where they conduct HIV prevention programs and educate the public. One of World Vision's prevention models aims to reduce any stigma which may deter people from seeking to know their HIV status, Kwaramba explained.

"World Vision is committed to providing assistance for children, their families and communities on the basis of need, without discrimination of any kind," the national director stated. "We do not require or compel those we serve to adopt our Christian faith.

"As in other nations, World Vision's work in Uganda is community-based and child-focused; the sexual orientation of those we serve, or those with whom we collaborate, does not arise."

Whether the legislation is passed or not, Kwaramba says the organization is committed to serving the poor, vulnerable and marginalized people of Uganda.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill includes a death penalty that applies in cases of "aggravated homosexuality," which is defined as unlawful homosexual rape of a minor or handicapped invalid, and serial homosexual acts.

Pastors in Uganda from such groups as Orthodox Church in Uganda and Roman Catholic Church in Uganda, support the legislation but have recommended that the death penalty sentence be reduced to 20 years imprisonment.

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